Skip to content

Rhetorical Studies Reading Group

at the university of illinois

On Monday, graduate students from the RSA Chapter at the University of Illinois gathered again in Lincoln Hall to participate in the second session of the RSA Webinar on Archival Research organized by Debra Hawhee and Jack Selzer over at Penn State.

Session 2 featured Jordynn Jack as well as fellow Illini Ned O’Gorman. The theme of the discussion was “The Archive as Heuristic.” Some of my notes follow below.

O’Gorman and Jack presented a fascinating way of looking at the archives. Rather than seeing the archive as a repository of information to be mined, O’Gorman and Jack considered what it would mean to think of the archive as a source of invention. Thinking of the archive in this way gets at the ways in which the archive often presents us with surprising artifacts that lead us to more questions. O’Gorman described this as the practice of finding “provocations” within the archives. These provocations present us with fundamental questions that lead to further inquiry.

Sometimes, those artifacts in the archive that provoke us lead us outside of the archive to answer the questions they raise.

Thus, both scholars discussed the ways in which archival research gives us opportunities for “undirected research” and the ability to be surprised by what we find. As researchers, we should be open to these provocations and see where they lead us. Seeing the archive as heuristic keeps us open and ready to embrace these opportunities.

The discussion was lively and fascinating, as always. Thanks to Rohini Singh for reserving the room and the equipment, thanks to Dr. O’Gorman and Dr. Jack for sharing their insights, and thanks to Debra Hawhee and Jack Selzer for bringing all of us into these discussions!

The next “Archival Encounters” webinar will take place on March 25th, and will examine the question of “Reading Archival Documents” with Ann George and Dave Tell.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

EDIT March 1st, 2013: Thanks to all who came to the reading group today! Due to copyright, some of the links to this week’s readings have been removed.


Mark your calendars!

Our next Rhetorical Studies Reading Group will be held on Friday, March 1, 2013 from 1pm to 3pm in Lincoln Hall, rm. 4103. For this meeting, we have the pleasure of hearing from three professors from the Center for Writing Studies (Lindsay Rose Russell, Martin Carmargo, Peter Mortensen). They will be discussing the importance of rhetoric to their work as well as helping to map connections between rhetorical studies and the field of Writing Studies / Rhetoric & Composition. Each has supplied a few readings for us to read in preparation for the meeting.

About the Readings:

Martin Camargo – The two essays represent two different ways in which historical rhetoric figures in my scholarship: as a rich source of information about medieval writing pedagogy and as an important context for understanding medieval poetic practice.

Lindsay Rose Russell – Janet Giltrow’s work is helpful for me in as it sets rhetorical genre theory in between what I find value in rhetorical studies approaches (to activity, networks, and/or ecologies) and language studies approaches (which trace traditions of language prescriptivism).

Peter Mortensen – My current book project, Manufacturing Illiteracy in the United States, examines the rhetoric of literacy and its consequences in the early twentieth-century US. I continue to consider how the cultural critique and rhetorical theorizing of Kenneth Burke might be germane to my project. For our meeting on March 1, I’ve assembled some relevant short pieces by Burke and have drafted a two-page overview that suggests how we might approach the readings.

You can access the readings below:

Camargo Readings

Camargo – Chaucer and the Oxford Renaissance of Anglo-Latin Rhetoric

Camargo – Writing Instruction

Mortensen Readings

Mortensen Guide to the Readings

Russell Readings

Giltrow – Meta-Genre


The Rhetorical Studies Reading Group is an IPRH sponsored group of students and faculty from a variety of disciplines and departments who are interested in the study of rhetoric. Several times a semester, the group comes together to discuss issues and research in rhetorical studies. We are often joined by guest scholars from around campus and across the country. Watch this space for updated information and readings.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On January 30, the Rhetorical Studies Reading Group was lucky enough to have some time to chat with Dr. Richard Graff from the University of Minnesota while he was on campus to deliver the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities lecture. We were joined by several students from the Department of Communication and the Center for Writing Studies as well as faculty from the Department of Communication to discuss several articles related to Dr. Graff’s research (you can check out the pieces we discussed below).

Dr. Graff discussed several issues and questions that animate his research interests in the oratorical spaces of classical Greece and Rome, including visuality and orality, performance, rhetorical style, and what he called a “synesthetic” approach to studying rhetoric (one that encompasses and connects the multiple senses in sometimes contradictory ways). Graff also noted some of the potential challenges associated with the study classical rhetoric, and a key theme throughout the discussion was the ways in which archaeological evidence informs this research. For Graff, studying the oratorical spaces of classical Greece and Rome is like a puzzle–one must put together a coherent picture based on the evidence available from a variety of sources.

Overall, the discussion was an exciting prelude to Dr. Graff’s fascinating talk later that afternoon. We appreciate the time Dr. Graff took to meet with us, and all the students and faculty who joined the conversation.

The Rhetorical Studies Reading Group is an IPRH sponsored group of students and faculty from a variety of disciplines and departments who are interested in the study of rhetoric. Several times a semester, the group comes together to discuss issues and research in rhetorical studies. We are often joined by guest scholars from across the country. Our next RSRG meeting will take place March 1st. Watch this space for updated information and readings. 

Tags: , , , , ,

Tonight, members from the RSA Chapter at the University of Illinois gathered together in Lincoln Hall to watch the first session of the Webinar on Archival Research that has been organized by Dr. Debra Hawhee and Dr. Jack Selzer over at Penn State. Session 1 featured two archivists from the Penn State Burke Archive, who shared some great practical tips about how to engage with an archive, and included some great resources for archival researchers. I’ve included links to these resources as well as some of their tips below.

Archival Research Databases and Directories:

  • Archive Grid ( – a database that links to finding aids, archive locations, contact information etc. Type in a variety of search terms (use their search tips for more information) and get connected to material located in archives across the country. Sometimes features direct links to digital material, but these links will occasionally be broken (feel free to email the archivist if the material is unavailable).
  • Archive Finder ( – A archive directory featuring sources from the US and the UK. Click on “Login through your library or institution” to get access through the U of I library).
  • Online Archive of California ( – Regional focus, but has great digital material.

Information on Copyright

  • WATCH ( – this site identifies the copyright holders for some authors. The archivists noted that this site is not exhaustive, but is continually updated and can be a good way to check who holds a copyright on a particular author’s material.
  • Digital Copyright Slider ( – a guide to copyright rules. Answers the basic question “Is it protected by copyright?” for various categories of material.

Glossary of Archival Lingo

Four Common Mistakes Made by New Archival Researchers (and how to not make them)

  1. Not writing down where material comes from in the archive
    • How to fix: Document everything! Bring a camera and take pictures of the folder, boxes, etc.
  2. Not getting in touch with an archive ahead of time
    • How to fix: Contact an archive before your visit to make sure that all the materials you need are available and ready for you to use.
  3. Not checking up on copyright concerns / not crediting copyright appropriately
    • How to fix: Always ask an archivist to make sure that you have the proper permission to use archival material in your work, especially when quoting or excerpting archival material.
  4. Not anticipating how long archival research will take
    • How to fix: Always double your anticipated timeline, especially when visiting an out-of-state archive.

Thanks to Anita Mixon for reserving a room and organizing our group viewing! Thanks to Professors Hawhee and Selzer for organizing the webinar series!

Tags: , ,

Greetings rhetoricians!

We hope you all have had a wonderful and relaxing winter break! The RSRG is thrilled to announce our first event of the semester: a reading group meeting with Dr. Richard Graff from the University of Minnesota.

The RSRG will get the chance to meet with Dr. Graff on Wednesday, January 30 from 11:30am-1pm in Lincoln Hall Room 4007. Dr. Graff has requested that we read a few articles in preparation for the discussion (see below).

Linked below is a word document which sets up each of the readings with some thoughts from Dr. Graff. It also presents a few links to websites of interest. Finally, we have also linked to PDFs of the readings Dr. Graff provided.

We are looking forward to seeing you all at our first meeting on January 30th!

As always, please let us know if you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback.

Rohini Singh
Paul McKean
Jon Stone
Katie Irwin

1. Graff Readings and Websites

2. Lucian_The Hall

3. Aristotle_Rhetoric 3.10_12

5. Johnstone Pnyx 1996 copy

Hawhee_Aristotle Rhetorical Vision 4. 2011

Tags: , , ,

Hello rhetorical scholars:

Instead of trying to pull together a hasty RSRG before finals, we’ve agreed to push that to next semester.

However, we have some very exciting events in the works for next semester, including:

Late-January 2013: Lunchtime RSRG meeting with Richard Graff 
February 2013: A Writing Studies-curated RSRG
March 2013: Graduate Lyceum
April 2013: Potential RSRG event with Dr. Christa Olson

Check this space and your inbox for more details and updates as plans are solidified. We’re looking forward to hitting the ground running next semester.

We hope you all have a smooth end of the semester, an enjoyable Winter Break, and a Happy New Year!


Rohini Singh

Katie Irwin

Jon Stone 

Paul McKean

Tags: , , ,

Last night, a few us got together to discuss what RSRG will be up to this semester. We apologize for the scheduling conflicts for the Writing Studies folks, but we were happy to hear that there is a lot of interest in the group.

If you weren’t able to make the meeting, here are some notes from our meeting:

  • Philosophy behind RSRG:
    • a chance to develop as scholars; professional development; networking rhetoricians from across campus
  • Ideas:
    • Reading Group: student-centered but faculty participate; discuss readings but don’t feel like an extra class; informal and inclusive; pizza and treats!
    • Bring speaker to campus / to RSRG in Spring
    • Lyceum Brown Bag series: give students a chance to present research-in-progress (completed seminar papers, seminar papers in development, conference papers, dissertation research, etc.); informal; hold during lunch time?; one hour (10-15 minute presentations with Q&A); time for feedback, suggestions, and questions
  • Upcoming events:
    • First Reading Group meeting
      • Last week of November / first week of December?
      • Writing Studies folks curate readings
      • Look for Doodle poll for dates / times
    • First Lyceum Brown Bag meeting
      • First week of November?
      • NCA practice presentations?
      • Look for Doodle poll for dates / times
  • Midwest Winter Workshop
    • Productive, informal, and fun conference opportunity
    • Free, January 26th at Indiana University
    • Send abstract of a paper to discuss. Get great feedback from leading scholars in the field.
    • Deadline for abstract: November 1st  (see email for more details!)
    • Do it!

If you weren’t able to make the meeting, we would love to hear any and all ideas / feedback / questions you have about the group. Feel free to contact any of us below.

Rohini Singh:  

Paul McKean:

Katie Irwin: